As the East Coast braced for a crippling blizzard, in Chicago the National LGBTQ Task Force celebrated a completely different kind of snowflake last weekend. Mired in controversy, the group’s annual Creating Change conference promised a storm of its own. While the blizzard ripped along the seaboard and small squalls of protests marked the conference, the result was the same: reality came to a brief standstill as chaos ruled.
Just as climate change has caused wild swings in the weather over the past few years, the upheaval in the LGBT community is also manmade and unpredictable. The battles for marriage equality and open military service behind them, organizations are struggling to find their focus and the dust ups at the conference reflected that. As queer leadership flails around wildly, their followers are scattering to the wind without direction.
Young transgender women shouted down a panel discussion on men who are attracted to transgender women. Activists succeeded in getting a caucus with officials from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency canceled shortly before the event, saying undocumented attendees wouldn’t feel safe participating in a conversation even though it wouldn’t have ended with the arrest of participants. And a back-and-forth, on-and-off-and-on-again reception hosted by the pro-Israel group A Wider Bridge not only spurred controversy before the event, a protest led through the host hotel by pro-Palestinian activists led to widespread accusations of anti-Semitism.
Within a couple of days the flurries were over on the coast and at the conference; the only thing left was the cleanup. Conference attendees stranded at the hotel until flights resumed to the east coast turned to one constant topic: not the protests themselves specifically, but the climate change in progressive politics that has allowed storms like these to brew. The Task Force’s leadership – and that of the wider movement itself – had failed and tomorrow’s forecast isn’t looking any better.